Welcome to my ramen dream... Currently being interpreted in Ramen Burger Land... Looking for a good slurp? Email me ! - Keizo

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring is here...

Day 148:

It's been awhile since I actually had the chance to get on the train and make the trek to a ramen-ya that wasn't within biking distance. Since I had last night off and had finished most of today's prep yesterday, I was up early to meet Brian in Naka-Meguro. When I got there, I had no idea the Sakura were in full-bloom. It was a beautiful sight!

Anyhow, the reason we were here was to check out the recently-hyped tomato ramen from Buono Buono. They occupy the space of another restaurant during the day and the ramen is only served for lunch. If you go looking for this place at night, you'll never find it. Trust me, we've done it before.

According to our waiter, the most popular tomato ramen is the Parmigiano. So that is what I ordered.

In a few words, it is a soupy angel hair pasta. It was different, but I liked it.

Afterward, I ran around like a little kid gathering evidence that Spring was finally here.

This is definitely the best time of the year.

All this Sakura-watching was starting to get me hungry again. So that's when I turned to Brian and said let's go for another bowl. He agreed and after a quick consultation with the ramen database, we were fittingly located in front of Chuuka Soba Sakura-zaka (Sakura Hill) in Shibuya.

I ordered the Chuuka Soba--a kotteri-shoyu ramen with a strong essence of katsuo (bonito).

Now this was a good bowl. What instantly intrigued my senses was the sweetness of the shoyu tare. Sweet and refined.

Although I prefer my shoyu ramen with a little more punch, this one was right down my alley with it's kotteri style.

Brian ordered the Sakura Shio Soba. He wasn't too thrilled with its overall performance, but thought it had a nice creaminess to it.

Okay, time to get back to work!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A night off...

Day 147:

Today I came in early to do all the prep, so I was able to get the rest of the night off. My first night off in over a month. So what did I do with my free time? Eat ramen of course! But before I could hit the road, I had to finish making the soup. Okay it's done. I'm out.

I've never really ridden my bike south of Bassanova down Kannana-dori before, but with a recommendation from Sugahara-san, I went to check out his former workplace--Tsukemen-ya Jyo.

They specialize in seafood tsukemen. Without remembering exactly what I ordered from the ticket machine, I started taking pictures of this tsukemen when it arrived. And just as I was about to dig in, the staff member pulled it out from under me saying that it wasn't what I ordered. Talk about a tease!

A few minutes later this Kaisen Tan Tan Tsukemen arrived and from first look I was wishing I had ordered the last one.

But after a few bites, everything was in order and I was slurping up some amazing flavors.

Since I was already this far down Kannana, I also decided to check out the famed Ramen Setagaya Honten. Setagaya and the Setagaya group have been making noise in the ramen world for quite a while now. With a branch in New York and a lineage like no other, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Disappointment. With all the hype, I was expecting something much better. To be honest, I didn't really like this ramen at all. The bitterness of the niboshi was much too strong and it overwhelmed everything.

The noodles were great, but my expectations were already dashed.

I guess I just don't understand the hype.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Number one?

Day 146:

I think I'll take a break from exploring all the hole-in-the-wall places that serve ramen around my home. Some are good, but they're just not worth going back.

Ichiban (number one) is one of those shops that I'll probably never step into again. I love cats, but if you're not in a cat cafe and the place happens to have more cats than customers, it may not be a good sign.

Definitely, not a good sign.

Did I just slurp a fur-ball?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A farewell party...

Day 145:

Today we celebrated and said thanks to Harada-san and Yamagata-san for protecting Bassanova's legacy for the past year. They will be returning to Fukuoka in less than two weeks where they will finally get a chance to reunite with family and friends that have missed them so much. Aside from the many times I came into Bassanova before I started working there, the past two weeks of being a full-time employee and the 14-hour days of training along side them have been some of the best days of my life. I will miss them and I wish them the best of luck, but I know our paths will cross again in the future.

So for now, kanpai! It's time to enjoy the night!

While we're all here, let me introduce you to the rest of Bassanova's staff. You've already met Komuro-san once before. She will hold the official title of shop manager, but we will all be working together in protecting Bassanova.

By 'we' I mean the Bassanova three: Myself, Komuro-san, and Sugahara-san. Sugahara-san used to be a professional boxer and man can he throw a punch. His strength may come in handy someday when we have to fend off all the drunks that come in late at night. He probably has the best personality out of all of us, but trust me you do not want to mess with him.

Now let me introduce you to the part-timers that will be helping us along the way. Pictured below is Max. There is so much I would like to say about Max, but for now I'll just say that he's some character. His wit is untouchable and the nights that he works are the most exhausting--in a good way of course.

The other two are Noboru-sensei and Shimizu-kun. We call him Noboru-sensei because he's been working at Bassanova the longest. Shimizu-kun is a spitting image of my friend back home from the way he looks to the way he laughs. It's a bit trippy. These three are all great guys and I hope they decide to stick around for awhile.

I also must mention that this party was held at nearby Ichiryu where Kawagoe-san (right) cooked up some amazing food. Sure he's one of our competitors, but we're all friends in the world of ramen.

Woah, a surprise visit from Mr. Nandenkanden himself! No f****ng way!!

Thank you Harada-san and Yamagata-san. Your presence will surely be missed!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chillin' at Bar てげ2

Day 144:

I finally picked up a fridge for my new apt. Thanks to my friend Darin, I was able to get it for free from a dude that was leaving the country. It's too bad I couldn't get his apt for free too. Check out his view.

Anyway, with the fridge in place it was time to chill. After work we decided to pay our neighbors a visit. Bar Tege-Tege (てげ2) shares a wall with Bassanova so we decided to go introduce ourselves. Apparently there was already a party going on, so we just mingled for one drink and then hit the road. If you don't believe me, check out Tege-Tege's blog.

Aaah, time to go home...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Surrounded by generosity...

Day 143:

A friend of a friend of a friend was moving back to Australia and he agreed to let me have some of his stuff like a washing maching, microwave, and various other necessities. But there was only one problem. He lives in Chiba, which is an hour and a half from Tokyo, and I don't have a car. So that's when another friend of a friend of a friend offered to help me pick it up and take it back to my apt in Tokyo. Thanks DMC!

So to offer my thanks, I treated him to one of his favorite ramen shops near Inage Station--Tora no Ana (虎ノ穴). It's an Iekei ramen shop that could translate to either the tiger's hole or the drunk person's hole. I'm not exactly sure which one, but I guess I can speculate.

I ordered the regular ramen. And if you're familiar with Iekei, you can choose the firmness of your noodles, the oil content, and the amount of tare used.

I went with normal for everything. I'd have to say that Tora no Ana does Iekei well, but it takes a certain type of person to get used to this style. You might say that it's an acquired taste.

DMC got the tsukemen. I don't think the Iekei style transferred over to the tsukemen but who cares it was still good.

Later that evening when I got into work, we received a care package from nearby Ichiryu.

Their karaage is the bomb!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A clean kama...

Day 142:

A kama is a large pot used for stewing or boiling. We have two of these in the back. It is important that it gets cleaned thoroughly after each batch of bones so we can...

...make the magic happen over and over again.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A slight scare...

Day 141:

Would you walk in to eat at a place like this? On a cold, rainy afternoon...I did. And when I opened the door I got a mad stare down from this 80-year-old skeleton man who didn't even greet me at all. Talk about frightening. Even the few locals sitting at the scattered tables stared at me like I was some kind of alien.

I walked in because I was hungry, cold, and saw the word ramen written on the wall as I walked by. Plus, this place is about 50 steps from my apt. I ordered the Gomoku Ramen pictured below.

And this chahan that was way too sticky.

I always look at places like these as an adventure because you never know what you'll find. Some turn out to be good and others...well...turn out like this.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Second chances...

Day 140:

Remember the last time I went to Onya? Well, I decided to go back to try their tsukemen while I waited for my laundry to finish around the corner.

This is probably what I should have got in the first place since their actually called Tsukemen Onya. The tsukemen wasn't bad, but don't ask for soup-wari cuz they use that same bloody ramen soup to dilute your tsuke-jiru.

I forgot to mention that last night was the first night where I took part in making the green curry paste. It's a long, long process that requires constant mixing with a large 2x4 so the paste doesn't burn. The pic below is the end product using the paste we made last night. It's a bit spicier than the last batch, but delicious nonetheless.

Someday I'll post my videos. You'll be amazed...

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Bassanova story...

Day 139:

Long ago, before the so-called "ramen boom," there was a popular tonkotsu ramen shop in Harajuku called Basaraka. That shop no longer exists today, but it is what gave birth to Bassanova more than ten plus years ago. Bassanova also began as a tonkotsu ramen shop, serving nothing but the Tondaku Soba (100% tonkotsu) that you see on the menu today. It was originally supposed to carry on the Basaraka name, but some dude in Kyushu stole it and registered it inappropriately. I won't get into the legal proceedings that followed, but the owner in the end just decided to entwine the name Basaraka with one of his favorite musical styles--Bossa Nova. So for those who keep asking me about its misspelling, that is why it is spelled Bassanova.

Bassanova also began as a collaboration of sorts. It was an experiment that brought together several up-and-coming ramen chefs of that time and allowed them to have a stage to show their work. Most notably was the team from Jiraigen. It was this Basaraka + Jiraigen collabo that married Basaraka's tonkotsu with Jiraigen's wadashi to form the Tondaku Wadashi Soba--the most popular ramen on the menu. But after a few years, this collabo had a falling out. I'm not aware of all the details, but the team from Jiraigen left and opened up their own shop just a few miles down the road. So if you were wondering what lied beneath the black marker on all the posters lining the walls...yup, it used to say Jiraigen.

Now you must be wondering how the Green Curry Soba and the Tom Yum Soba came into the picture. Well let me tell you. Back in the early days, Bassanova used to function as a cafe during the day and ramen-ya at night. The cafe was mostly geared towards women, serving cake, coffee and tea, and light food items. Then one day, a chef from Thailand was hired to overhaul the lunch menu. He brought with him several recipes that included green curry rice and tom yum soup. Although the cafe is no longer open, I bet you know where this story leads. Yup! The ambitious crew of ramen chefs became intrigued and instantly began marrying the green curry and tom yum with the wadashi soup. After several years of experimentation, the Green Curry Soba and the Tom Yum Soba have become the ramen that they are today.

Over the years, Bassanova has also seen its fair share of ramen chefs come and go. Each vowed to preserve and protect its ramen until they could pass it on to their successor. There have been several times where Bassanova was on the verge of closing because this successor could not be found. But in each instance, someone emerged who said that they would step up and continue its legacy. Today, I am that person. And I have vowed to continue the Bassanova legacy until I can pass it on to my successor. Are you interested?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sit back and relax...

Day 138:

"Sit back and relax. Let me make you something." That's what my boss said when it came time for us to eat our nightly makanai (free meal).

I was afraid at first, but I have to admit that this aptly named rice burger was quite good.

"Sit back and relax. I'll make you my specialty." That's what Kawagoe-san, the manager of nearby Ichiryu, said to me after inviting me to an after-work party and hearing that I never tried their ramen before.

Ichiryu has been getting some bad reviews lately, but this ramen was actually pretty awesome.

When I talked to Kawagoe-san about the bad press, he said it's because he hasn't been the one making the ramen lately.

That will change come April. Kawagoe-san will be manning the shop full-time in order to try and steal customers from nearby Bassanova. Haha, good luck!

"Sit back and relax. I ain't going anywhere." That's what my bike said to me when the back tire refused to stay inflated.

So yeah! Wherever you are, I hope you get a chance to sit back and relax too...